The Beatles hated The Beatles (1965), the television cartoon show of them, which was also produced by Al Brodax and George Dunning. When the producers approached them about this movie, the group agreed only as an easy way of completing their movie contract. They contributed a few old songs and four quickly produced numbers: "Only a Northern Song", "Hey Bulldog", "All Together Now", and "It's All Too Much". They were so impressed by the finished movie that they decided to appear in a short live-action epilogue to the movie.
The original British version was restored in 1998 for release in 1999. American audiences finally got to see the five minutes of footage that had been cut from the original one hour and twenty-five-minute U.S. version, including the "Hey Bulldog" sequence.
When The Beatles sing to wake up the Lord Mayor (Dick Emery) who has been bonked by green apples, they repeat the phrase, "...time to rectify", which is a snippet from George Harrison's "Think for Yourself", a song on "Rubber Soul". The full line is "The future still looks good / And you've got time to rectify all the things that you should".
When the movie was being restored for DVD in 1998, the producers obtained The Beatles' permission to remix the songs in order to produce a proper 5.1 music track. Engineer Peter Cobbin went back to the original four-track work tapes and assembled true multi-track masters for each of the fifteen songs, enabling him to achieve stereo effects and add clarity that had never previously been possible. Many Beatles fans objected, but Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Ringo Starr, and George Harrison reportedly approved the new mixes.
Director George Dunning was given only eleven months to complete "Yellow Submarine". At the time, a typical Disney animated feature took four years to make. Dunning had to quadruple his studio staff and fight off financial backers who wanted to change the actors' Liverpool accents. He had scant cooperation from The Beatles, who wanted little to do with the project; voice actors were used for the characters' spoken dialogue. The movie was a smash hit, bringing Dunning immense prestige and a special award from the National Society of Film Critics, U.S. Even the band was impressed, and agreed at the last minute to appear in a hastily shot live-action epilogue. Ironically, Dunning lost money on "Yellow Submarine". He agreed to make it for a flat fee, which he plowed back into the production when it ran over budget, and saw none of the enormous profits it generated. He never made another feature-length film.
During "All Together Now", the phrase is shown twenty-seven times in sixteen languages. The sequence: English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Hebrew, Greek, Swedish, Russian, Japanese, English, Greek, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, Spanish, Farsi, Swahili, Sanskrit, French, Hebrew, Swedish, Chinese, German, Japanese, and English.
George says "I know something about motors" when the submarine stops working. George Harrison had worked as an apprentice electrician in his teens, and planned to go into business with his brother, a mechanic.
In summer 1967, Director George Dunning brought German artist Heinz Edelmann to London to work as Production Designer on this movie. The script wasn't ready, and Edelmann wasn't given a specific assignment. After two months of inactivity, he decided to quit. He vented his frustrations by drawing a series of villainous characters, which these became the Blue Meanies, the Apple Bonkers, and The Glove. Dunning loved the sketches. From then on, Edelmann was a guiding force in the production, designing most of the characters and backgrounds and helping to develop the story. He let his imagination run rampant and cultivated a style of "visual overload" (his words) to cover the plot holes and maintain interest. Many viewers assumed Edelmann got his ideas from using hallucinogens. He said, "I had never taken any drugs. I'm a conservative, working class person who'd stick to booze all his life. And so I just knew about the psychedelic experience just by hearsay. And I guessed what it was."
In the final weeks of production, Peter Batten was arrested for deserting the British Army. Paul Angelis had to finish voicing the part of George. Comedian Dick Emery, who voiced Jeremy Hillary Boob, Ph.D., had suffered the same fate after going A.W.O.L. from the Royal Air Force during World War II to appear in a play only to be recognized by two military policemen in the audience.
The two football (soccer) teams depicted during "Eleanor Rigby" represent Liverpool's two top-flight teams, Liverpool in red and Everton in blue. Their two home stadiums are within easy walking distance of each other.
Blue Meanies have six fingers on each hand. This is probably poking fun at the common practice amongst animators of dropping the pinkie finger when drawing hands, leaving the character with four fingers.
Director George Dunning was a specialist in animation using painted glass instead of traditional cels. He personally supervised the "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" sequence, which uses this technique extensively.
In 2012, Robert Zemeckis, who was set to do a 3-D computer animated remake of this movie, said he was no longer interested. He told Moviehole, "That would have been a great one to bring The Beatles back to life. But it's probably better not to be remade. You're always behind the 8-ball when you do a remake."
The psychedelic "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" sequence is a fantasy within the fantasy, partly because the technique, and possibly even some of the content, came from a previous short animated project by Bill Sewell called "Half in Love with Fred Astaire". The animation style, also much favored by Director George Dunning, is called Rotoscope, in which live-action film footage is run beneath a glass sheet on which the animators draw directly from footage below. For "Lucy", animators were encouraged to use ragged paintbrush strokes to achieve an effect Dunning later referred to as "handmade ... in a more mud-pie and direct way" than line drawings. And the live-action basis for the "Lucy" sequence included footage of not only Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but Eddie Cantor, Ruby Keeler, and The Goldwyn Girls as well. Sewell had a falling-out with Dunning early on, so he quit and is not credited for his contribution to this movie.
At the Sea of Holes, John says, "This place reminds me of Blackburn, Lancashire." In response, Paul sings,"Oh, boy!" When George asks how many holes there are, Jeremy Hillary Boob, Ph.D (the Nowhere Man) answers: "Enough to fill the Albert Hall." These are all references to a lyric in the song "A Day In The Life": "I read the news today, oh boy / Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire / And though the holes were rather small / They had to count them all / Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall."
Since he had grown up in Liverpool and attended school with John Lennon, poet and actor Roger McGough was brought in to do some script doctoring, specifically to make the dialogue more "scouse" (Liverpudlian), after complaints that it was "too American" because most of the writers up to that point were in fact from the U.S. and Canada. McGough was told up front he would not be credited, but he said later "it was a very exciting and friendly thing to have done."
The crew are generally agreed that thirteen children and five marriages resulted from the work on this movie. According to Jack Stokes, "There were about one hundred fifty young ladies working on the film. So there were a lot of lads and a lot of girls getting a bit haywire towards the end." Anne Jolliffe, an animator from Australia who did a lot of work on the "Nowhere Man" sequence, recalled, "We had a pretty good time. I was one who produced a son, so I know how long ago Yellow Submarine (1968) was . . . He was almost born at the premiere, but he waited. I think he was about number ten or twelve in order of appearance."
The scene with the boxing dinosaur smoking a cigar is a parody of a long-running series of ads for Hamlet Cigars. "Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet" ads ran until 1991, when the U.K. banned tobacco ads on television. Radio and television commercials used an excerpt from Johann Sebastian Bach's Air on the G String, which is still frequently associated with the brand.
According to the book "The 50 Greatest Movies Never Made" by Chris Gore, a sequel called "Strawberry Fields Forever" was being worked on at one point. It was to be first computer-generated movie ever. The movie was to utilize many songs from The Beatles. Ten minutes of test footage was shot, and has never been seen.
Director of Special Sequences Charles Jenkins put many of his fellow crew members into the "Eleanor Rigby" sequence early in the movie. In order of appearance, Producer Al Brodax is the man smoking the pipe as the sub sails across the sky behind him. Next is his Production Coordinator, Abe Goodman as the man hunched into his coat on the far right of the screen (and Brodax occasionally claimed Goodman's face was used as the model for the Chief Blue Meanie!). The man in the distant high window, looking like he might jump, is Animation Director Robert Balser. The soccer teams consist of just two men, one for each side: voice actor (for Paul) Geoffrey Hughes as the eleven Everton players in blue, and animator Tony Cuthbert, who had also worked on eight episodes of The Beatles (1965) cartoon series, as the eleven Liverpool players in red. Animation Background Supervisor Alison De Vere turns up as the woman with the goldfish bowl in which the submarine briefly appears. And finally, photographs of arguably the two most important co-creators of the movie appear repeatedly in an homage to Magritte's many paintings of bourgeois gentlemen holding umbrellas; here, they are Director George Dunning and Art Director Heinz Edelmann. Other people familiar to the crew, operators of The Duck and Dog pub where they hung out, an accountant, a bookkeeper and her friend, a messenger boy at TV Cartoons of London (the British subcontractor to King Features), were used for other characters in the sequence.
In 2009, Disney and Apple Corps announced a 3-D computer animated remake, with Robert Zemeckis as director. Motion capture would be used, as with Zemeckis' previous animated movies The Polar Express (2004), Monster House (2006), Beowulf (2007), and A Christmas Carol (2009). Disney planned the movie for a summer 2012 release, to coincide with the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Peter Serafinowicz would voice Paul, Dean Lennox Kelly would voice John, Cary Elwes would voice George, and Adam Campbell would voice Ringo. David Tennant was in talks to play the Chief Blue Meanie. California-based Beatles tribute band Fab Four was cast to do the motion capture performance for The Beatles. If the movie had been successful, it would have spawned a Broadway musical and a Cirque de Soleil show. In May 2010, Disney shut down Zemeckis' digital film studio, ImageMovers Digital (where the movie would have been produced) due to the successful yet unsatisfactory performance of A Christmas Carol (2009), and pulled the plug on the project in 2011 due to the massive failure of Mars Needs Moms (2011). Criticism of motion capture technology was a factor. After its cancellation at Disney, Zemeckis tried to pitch the project to other studios, but he ultimately lost interest. He later said "That would have been a great one to bring the Beatles back to life. But it's probably better not to be remade. You're always behind the 8-ball when you do a remake."
This movie made its primetime television premiere on October 29, 1972 on CBS and was rerun again on CBS on July 5, 1974 and July 4, 1975 before going into syndicated runs. The tradition of broadcasting around Independence Day was a perfect family movie with its brilliant colors and music. It was the perfect lead in as by the time it was finished, it was late enough and dark enough outdoors for the 4th of July firework celebrations to begin.
Animation Background Supervisor Alison De Vere recalled that Director of Special Sequences Charles Jenkins asked her to hold a goldfish bowl, saying, "I just want your hands". When she saw herself in the "Eleanor Rigby" sequence as a forlorn figure in a doorway, possibly Eleanor Rigby herself, holding the bowl, in which the Yellow Submarine is briefly reflected, "I didn't take very kindly to it. Because Eleanor Rigby was not a glamorous figure to be." On the other hand, "I think my son at the time used to tell his school friends rather proudly that his mother was Eleanor Rigby."
Signet Books published a heavily illustrated novelization, and Gold Key published a comic book adaptation. Both were based on early versions of the screenplay and thus diverged from the finished movie. The comic book included amorous mermaids and a character named Lovely Rita who ends up with Old Fred.
This movie was a massive critical and commercial success in North America. However, reviews in the United Kingdom were less favorable, in part due to the press' cynicism towards The Beatles' recent antics in India and their costly Apple boutique. As well, it was released in relatively few theaters in the U.K. and did respectable but not stellar at the box-office.